On the 18th of September 2018, the world united to do some talking, future planning and action taking at the U.N. General Assembly. And indeed everyone has talked, especially when the President of the United States pronounced the last words of a truly eyebrow-raising speech. As usual, the most powerful man in the world has managed to generate a lot of fuss around what he had to say, first and foremost around the time when the most prominent faces of the globe have started laughing, the brief moment of calm being the sole one before the storm. And in the moments that followed it has rained ideals, future prospects, and new directions all mixed up with the rumbling of a world trying to decipher his words.
I believe that throughout his speech Mr. Trump has shredded every aspect of the system we knew so well, taking two steps back and one forward in a dance with him as the sole performer. It seems to me that we all knew that this paradox was going to come one day, and yet it left us all perplexed when the U.S., while still maintaining for a little while its position as the world’s preeminent power, is stepping down from the throne of hegemony already.
In short the speech was made up of two, divergent parts, one that talked about ideals, using rusty phrases, such as peace, sovereignty, prosperity, fair trade, development and prosperity . and the other with shades of military intervention, attacks on internal practices, cuts in foreign aid, dismantling of organizations, and the list goes on. But, as weird and shocking as it might seem, to me this is the way Donald J. Trump finally announces that Lady Liberty has put down her tabula ansata and picked up the sword of realism, not of just any type though, but that coined by John Mearsheimer: the offensive one.
Firstly, he commenced his discourse by boasting in regards to the achievements that occurred under his mandate in a quite nationalistic way, forgetting or simply ignoring that his audience was not the usual voters but leaders of countries that boast longer lists of triumphs. This has proved to me that his administration is still mainly focused on the present and time to come in the land of the free. Also, during his time on the stage a lot of eloquent phrases have been used, highlighting archetypes that echoed inside those walls for decades and that enchant the ears of many but which only a few can understand their true face.
The course of how the king descends is now set on ensuring peace, but only in the areas inhabited by his „friends” with little or no regard towards how it is maintained in other places, and I believe that this can lead to some unforeseen necessities of preserving it with high-costs for all individuals under the sun. Even to his group of „friends” I suspect that the message rings a bell and makes them realize clearly that they have the leviathan watching their backs as long as they prove their usefulness in one way or another (in the realist logic as they provide him with power or advantages in any form). Another condition they should respect is that of not trying, under any circumstance, to interfere with America in any disruptive way corroborated with paying their fair share of the burden of security. Speaking of fairness, I presume that the U.S. sees it in a very straightforward way when it comes to the economic realm – you might strike deals with us as long as they benefit us primarily and we can call it fair trade, otherwise if you use any other financial tactics, orthodox or not, we will leave you empty handed- and this logic is endorsed by the certitude they have that everyone will beg to reenter the largest consumer market on earth under (almost) any terms.
If we talked about money it is normal to get to another subject of perennial interest for the American people and that is war. In my humble opinion it is very clear that Donald J. Trump wants to set in place a policy of restraint in foreign affairs or, dare I say, even an isolationist one. In this new bold push he states that every state is shining brightly in its part of the world, and that they should do that free of any external pressure. The idea is that every state that doesn’t pose a threat should be left alone in this new way America stands with the world, expecting the same in return. But, he made it clear as a blue sky that the same will not apply to threatening nations, declaring that he will continue the containment of the Russian Federation, this time in the form of energy security, naming a few vulnerable points and strongholds that exist in Europe in this matter. In my point of view he also made evident the certitude that he wants to intervene, even in a conflictual manner, in order to add weight to his side of the balance of power, in countries like Venezuela, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea (if they don’t continue on the path paved with roses and white pigeons it has taken), Syria, and all the OPEC member states. Nevertheless not to mention the open grudge held against Iran and the support showcased for the other member of the cold war that is ravaging the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, among others, in the form of cooperation against the biggest demon that haunts us today, terrorism.
In my thinking, as if to further announce the fact that the U.S. will become a more internally focused, stronger, safer, richer country, he stated that it will no longer support the status quo in which 1/3 of a continent acts as the policemen over all the 7 seas, making a point in letting every nation express its unity the way it wishes instead of the current combinations of diversity, proposing that every citizen should have a powerful love for his nation, that can only be built with the beatings of patriotic hearts. I anticipate that this will lead to a world lacking a night watchman state consumed by the flames of neo-nationalism, if this concept is misused and not cherished as a world of states set free. In regards to international laws, it seems to me that he set up to not care about them like they were books let to gather dust on a forgotten shelf of a library in which no American is willing to enter to pick them up, taking a path of resigning from as many as possible to avoid culpability and act even more at their own will. This way of acting leading either to new ways of thinking about international laws and a redesigning of how they should be applied or an encouragement to disregard them in believing that they are simple pieces of paper with facilitative norms written on them.
Least but not last, towards the institutions that ensure their application I find that the President is totally against dominating them directly, as it is now, rather wanting to let everyone play by themselves inside the organization and take a share of the cake proportional to their contribution. This case could lead to smaller countries bandwagoning with the bigger player in order to keep their privileges or maybe even to have a say in the way these organizations legislate and work. Moreover Mr. Trump blames liberalism and socialism alongside with their practices for the state of the globe nowadays, burning them like witches in the town square and going as far as showcasing how Sweden is almost a failed country due to this approach that seems to be the rotten apple of democracy.
Further dissecting the discourse would seem as fruitful as it was up to this point but it will only further provide me evidence to the fact that the world is shaken by the new approach of the U.S. that is preparing to step down, seemingly knowing what type of nation they should be from now on. They are taking care of themselves more from now on they let a power vacuum to rise in the international arena, a hole that will be filled, with a lot of frictions, by other countries, but without them being ready to fulfill this duty yet. For the Americans using the realist rhetoric as its paradigm in foreign policy and as the only axiom by which the game will be played in the future that is to come can prove to be an useful tactic, with only time as a judge. The only certitude that we face now is that the system is shifting towards a slightly lopsided multipolarity, the changes that will occur being laid on the table for everyone to pick and use either to their advantage or that of others, but I believe that we know how this turning of the tables will, most realistically end, and that is 与一个说中文的世界 (Yǔ yīgè shuō zhōngwén de shìjiè – with a world that speaks Chinese).